Monthly Archives: June 2017

When doctors should ignore end-of-life directives

Things are not always black and white during a health crisis

By Dr. Kathryn B. Kirkland for Next Avenue

Knowing your wishes for end-of-life is important in a medical emergency.

Credit: Adobe Stock – Advance directives will remain an important part of the picture: They ensure that decisions about medical interventions at the end of life are in the hands of patients and that patients’ values drive these decisions, even when they can’t speak for themselves.

(This article was provided by The Op-Ed Project, with which the writer is a fellow.)

Sheila was very clear about her wishes for the end of life. She was 88 years old and a former hospice volunteer. When her time came, she wanted no ventilator, no feeding tube, no CPR. She even wrote down her wishes — NO LIFE SUPPORT! — in an advance directive, in case she wasn’t able to say what she wanted. (Advance directives such as the one Sheila wrote are common; many hospitals even use their completion rates as a quality metric.) read more

Too old to learn a language? Don’t believe it

As an older adult, you have skills that can help — and your brain will thank you

By Bill Ward for Next Avenue

Studies indicate that attaining a working ability to communicate in a new language may actually be easier and more rapid for the adult than for the child.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock – Immersing ourselves in another language at whatever age expands not only our minds, but our lives.

Conventional wisdom holds that the older we get, the harder it is to learn a new language. Which is true — except when it’s not.

Turns out that while our brains might not be as quick or deft as in those halcyon days of youth, all that hard-earned experience, knowledge and discipline can come to the rescue.

Using our adult knowledge to learn a language

“[Older adults] know more about culture, about how the world works, about how our native language works,” said Lisa Frumkes, senior director of content for Rosetta Stone, an education technology software company that develops language, literacy and brain-fitness software. “So we can build on these things. We also have to have discipline when learning a language, and that is something older people have more of. Knowing how to regulate your schedule, that’s 90 percent of the exercise.” read more

Why I call my Dad even if it’s not Father’s Day

My phone calls to him used to be obligatory, but loss has a way of changing things

By Jill Smolowe for Next Avenue

Jill Smolowe with her father

Caption: Jill Smolowe with her father

When I was a college undergraduate, I used to call my parents every Thursday night. The calls were mandatory, the price of college tuition, so to speak. Invariably, my mother would answer, then yell, “Dick! Pick up! It’s Jill.”

Nothing of substance was ever said about my coursework. And certainly I wasn’t going to tell them who I was sleeping with or what I was smoking. So, I remember not one thing about these phone calls beyond this: both of my parents were on the line, I was itchy to get off so I could get back to my life and any parental input pretty much came from my mother. read more

7 signs your aging parents need extra help

They may be afraid to tell you they are having trouble

By Joanna Nesbit for Next Avenue

Elders who want to remain in their home may not admit they need help for fear of being encouraged into an assisted living situation. But letting things go too far can precipitate a crisis situation.

Credit: Thinkstock Elders who want to remain in their home may not admit they need help for fear of being encouraged into an assisted living situation. But letting things go too far can precipitate a crisis situation.

While their 84-year-old father recovered at a rehabilitation facility after landing in the hospital with symptoms of a mini-stroke, the Jones (not their real name) siblings took the opportunity to do some cleaning at his house.

Opening the fridge, they were shocked to find layers of mold, hardened food and multiple jars of the same item in varying states of decomposition. They knew solo living had become challenging for their dad, but they didn’t realize the extent of the decline.

“The two biggest reasons for geriatric decline are depression and dementia,” says Amy Fuchs, elder care consultant and licensed clinical social worker in Saddle River, N.J. Depression can set in when older people feel isolated and lonely, and often may be grieving the recent death of a friend. read more

9 keys to a happy retirement

What the experts say, plus 8 great retirement books

By Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue

Happiness and retirement do go together.

Credit: Getty Images

It turns out that happiness and retirement do go together.

Well, based on the research and books I’ve read and interviews I’ve done since becoming editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels at Next Avenue in 2011, they can go together if you play your cards right.

And it’s not just about having saved enough money or having a great pension, though both of those help. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are nine keys to a happy retirement, one of them pertaining specifically to couples. I’ll lay them out shortly and suggest a few books that can help you retire happy. read more

What’s causing your knee pain?

The common culprits, plus treatments to consider

By Emily Gurnon for Next Avenue

Knee pain can really slow you down as you age. But an accurate diagnosis and treatment can help.

Credit: Getty Images

Whether it came on suddenly when you were playing tennis or more gradually over many years, knee pain can keep you from doing even the most basic of activities. At the very least, it can limit your ability to move as easily or quickly, or sit in one place for an extended time.

Arthritis is the most common cause of knee pain for older adults, said Dr. Julie Switzer, an orthopedic surgeon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. Arthritis comes in three main forms, she said: osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. read more

Why people give up beloved pets

The sad truth about pet surrender, plus how to keep owners and animals together

By Donna Jackel for Next Avenue

Some seniors have to give up beloved pets due to health or finances. This is a grey tiger cat.

Credit: Thinkstock

Alan Killough lost his job around the same time the family cat had kittens. Reluctantly, he and his wife, Lisa Harrison, both 56, took the litter to the nearby Downey Animal Care Center in Downey, Calif.

Bernice Osorto, an employee of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), greeted the couple. She asked why they were surrendering the kittens and offered an alternate plan: If Killough and Harrison would take the four kittens back home and care for them until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered, the ASPCA would pay for the surgeries and help re-home them (the term for finding a new, suitable place for a pet to live). read more